Sunday, October 12, 2008

A batch of books

It's the big week for fans of Katherine Neville .... THE FIRE makes an appearance in bookstores... not to be missed! (see review in earlier blog posts)

For those of you still needing extra 
reading material here are a few other sugestions:

Romance readers can enjoy a new 
Susan Wiggs book: Just Breathe.  Known for her light touch and contemporary romances, Wiggs gives us a pregnant comic strip artist running from her cheating husband back to her seaside hometown. As a high school misfit she has lots of memories from those years including ones about the good looking fire chief (can we say hot romance about now?). Easy to read and you'll enjoy it too much to feel guilty about this modern romance with baby! on board.

Canine lovers try Marley and Me. This dog really is man's best friend and once you start reading you'll understand why Hollywood optioned this book and why the movie is coming out during the holiday season. 

Non fiction lovers who worry about the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and are interested in the "new" Russia will enjoy Putin's Labyrinth. It may scare you more than the American economy when you read about the killing of journalists, and others who have dared to take him "on." Does Alexander Litvinenko and 
polonium-210 ring a bell? Read this and you'll think twice if you believe the Cold War ever ended.

Saturday, October 11, 2008



American Wife's central character is a first lady so conflicted that she makes Hamlet look happy and  the reader thankful that the White House is not her future residence. Written by Curtis Sittenfield, author of PREP it tells the story of Alice Lindgren a Wisconsin born and bred former school librarian, a somewhat straight laced but quietly liberal woman who bears a striking resemblance to real first lady Laura Bush. How she meets Charlie Blackwell, marries and reforms him and then scales political heights with him -something to which she never aspired is l chronicled in detail.

If you keep thinking George W. Bush as you read, well you know the "W" pretty well because like the “real president” Charlie comes from a powerful, monied family with political connections. He is known for many things but not his IQ (although he is a Princeton and Wharton B. School grad). The fictional character  is the black sheep of his family, buys a pro-baseball team, struggles with alcohol until he becomes "born again," is strongly Conservative and a Republican. to     

But Alice is the real story here. Her early years, quiet, family life, her struggle with guilt over the accidental death of her first love - a death she caused (again like the real Laura Bush).  While no one is privy to the real thoughts of another person, Sittenfield's character Alice is never far from her first love whether it is in her dreams, thoughts, or indeed how the incident and it's aftermath continue to haunt the rest of her life. 

Alice's transition from small town, middle class girl, school teacher/librarian to the country club clique with her marriage is one of the more interesting parts of this book as we see Alice change in response to her new life. Her often naïve outlook and lack of guile leave her open to Blackwell family pressures and her life of financial privilege is not always what it seems to those around her.

It is fascinating and does make the reader wonder how accurate Sittenfield might be about America’s real first lady. You’ll wonder if the truth is out there so to speak when you finish  this novel, and if it is even close you’ll appreciate Laura Bush’s grace and spirit.

This is another Sittenfield book to savor and leave you guessing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For Red Sox Fans

Fun read with lots of facts and back stories - really humanizes Terry Francona. Well paced, easy page turner and a must-read for Red Sox fans... If you like baseball trivia you'll love the Michael Jordan stories.

The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship 
 David Halberstam 2004

The best baseball book ever (well, at least my favorite ). Halberstam, one of the all time great writers tells the story about Ted Williams and   his teammates Johnny  Pesky (as in Pesky's Pole), Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr and  the grand days of the Sox.  He tells about the highs and lows of Teddy and the final journey his friends take to say goodbye to him. Hang on to your kleenex, but also be prepared to laugh as you read because some of the stories are absolutely priceless (yes, like  a visa commercial).
This book  makes a wonderful  gift for anyone who is a Red Sox fan, anyone who loves baseball history or just  appreciates great sports writing. 

A Few New Recommendations

If you are looking for something new to read or gift, here are a few suggestions

For fans of historical fiction:


David Ebershoff's   19th Wife will intrigue fans of "Big Love," as it tells the story of Brigham Young's young wife (#19) and at the same time has a contemporary plot featuring a "closed" community where present day polygamists (think Warren Jeffs here)  practice their beliefs.  Well written and a fascinating  jaunt through the history of the Church of Latter Day Saints and the impact of polygamy on families - especially the women
 and children.

 by Heather Terrell 

Were the Chinese the first to circumnavigate the globe? Did the emperor send ships under the famous Admiral Zheng to explore, map and  bring riches  back to  him? This is the fictional tale of a young mapmaker and his long journey... a tale worthy of Marco Polo. It's also a history of China in the 1420's, the Forbidden City, the world of palace intrigue, and a young man's gift to his family of his manhood and happiness so he may enter the gates of the Forbidden City, learn  mapmaking and  navigational skills. As a eunuch his status, salary, etc. elevate his family  although he has lost the woman he loved.

While this story alone would make the book -- there is much more. In the present day a young woman owns a  rather unique company that  negotiates and retrieves stolen artifacts, art, etc.  A request to find a Chinese map from the 1400's stolen from an archaeological dig  is rather unusual since the person who is paying her has not told her the full truth about the very unique map. Seems everyone wants it too so now we have a little suspense and danger.

And that is why there is a third story taking place in the book that traces the story of the  Portugese explorer most school age children can name with ease because he was the one  who first circumnavigated the globe --- Vasco deGama. In the late 1400's he made this trip under Portugal's banner but this books speculates that he had a secret -  the Chinese map that made his trip possible. Perhaps our teachers were wrong? 

Characters both historical and imaginary paint portraits of times and places so real that you can t hear the waves, taste the salt and visualize the map.  Chances are you won't be able to put it down for long and you'll be caught up in each of the three stories and how they tie together. Great read .